Memphis' Music Business Roots: Sun Studio, Beale Street & More Long-Running Mainstays

Booker T. & The MG’s at the Stax studio in Memphis in 1967.
Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Booker T. & The MG’s at the Stax studio in Memphis in 1967.

A look at the long-running local mainstays that helped foster Memphis’ deep music-business roots.

Ardent Studios

The home of cult pop band Big Star, Ardent cuts everything from hip-hop (Rick Ross) to indie rock (Deer Tick).

Beale Street

Dating back to W.C. Handy and the birth of the blues, Beale (through its Merchant’s Association) remains a nightlife fixture, with highlights that include the renovated venue New Daisy and B.B. King’s Blues Club.

Grammy Museum (Mississippi)

Cleveland, Miss., an hour’s drive from Memphis, is home to one of only two Grammy museums. The 27,000 square-foot facility celebrates acts born, raised or rooted in the region.

Made in Memphis Entertainment

Hall of Fame songwriter and Stax Records icon Dave Porter recently launched this full-scale studio, label and publishing enterprise to help nurture a new generation of local talent.

Memphis Blues Foundation

The world’s leading blues organization stages the annual International Blues Challenge and Blues Music Awards, and in 2015 opened the doors to the Blues Hall of Fame & Museum.

Sam Phillips Recording Service

Led by Phillips’ granddaughter Halley and Grammy-winning producer Matt Ross-Spang, the analog-friendly studio has worked with Third Man Records and Sony/Legacy.


Launched by Sam Phillips’ brother Tom in 1960, the multimillion-dollar business has included a distribution division, several labels, an in-house studio and retail stores. The company, now in its sixth decade, is run by the Phillips’ second and third generations.

Soulsville Foundation

Centered on the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which celebrates the Memphis label (home to Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes), Soulsville carries on the Stax legacy through its music academy and charter school.

Sun Studio

The Sun Records storefront, where Million Dollar Quartet members Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash got their start, has become a mecca for rock’n’roll tourists.

This article originally appeared in the May 13 issue of Billboard.


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